James Hook in Wales contention for World Cup, says Rob Howley

Robert Howley and James Hook
Rob Howley and James Hook in 2013 at a Wales training session

Gloucester fly-half James Hook can play himself into contention for Wales' World Cup squad, says Rob Howley.

Hook was left out of Wales' squad for the Six Nations Championship, but has impressed for his club in the Aviva Premiership and Euro Challenge Cup.

Wales attack coach Howley says Hook's versatility could count in his favour.

"Probably your third number 10 has to have the ability to play 10 and 15 and 12 and 13, so James Hook comes into the equation," said Howley.

The former Wales and Lions scrum-half was explaining why the Welsh Rugby Union had asked Cardiff Blues to switch dual-contract player Gareth Anscombe from fly-half to full-back for the Pro12 match against Scarlets.

The move meant Rhys Patchell playing at 10, with both Blues players in the reckoning for the World Cup squad.

Ospreys' Dan Biggar and Bath-bound Rhys Priestland are expected to be first and second in the fly-half pecking order.

"So flexibility is so important when you're picking a squad of 31 and obviously both Rhys and Gareth are in that mix," he added.

Asked specifically if Hook could play himself into contention, Howley replied "absolutely".

"[Wales head coach] Warren Gatland has said that the door is open and obviously we are going to be sitting down in the next couple of weeks for when we announce the squad on 6 June," he said.

Hook has played 77 times for Wales, but has failed to command a place in the team since the 2011 World Cup when Gatland's side were beaten semi-finalists.

Howley says the bulk of the squad will be made up of the players who earned Wales four wins out of five in the 2015 Six Nations.

But he confirmed there are likely to be a number of places up for grabs when Gatland names his initial squad.

"We learned from the 2011 World Cup squad selection that competition in that 45-man squad was so important, and is going to be an important ingredient come this year as well."